The growing visibility of less fortunate Liberians named here as zogoes has prompted a UN official Mr. Uchenne Emelonye’s warning for Liberians, especially decision makers, to look after these folks to prevent them reaching a point where their nascent values will affect “all of us and affect the peace in Liberia.”
Mr. Uchenne Emelonye, the UN’s Country Representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights based his warning on the tragic experience of his home country Nigeria where according to him, children at age two were sent into the streets to fend for themselves and “today, northeast [Nigeria] is the epicenter of Boko Haram.”
However, Mr. Emelonye’s warning came strategically at a very important program when the University of Liberia (UL) was on Tuesday, 18 August graduating 49 predominantly young students as ambassadors from the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation (KAICT), charging them to avoid leaving anyone behind.
In his keynote speech, Mr. Emelonye observes that there are some Liberians who, on the basis of how they look and dress, would not be permitted by security to access a hall like the UL Auditorium on Capitol Hill where the graduation ceremony was taking place Tuesday, for instance.
“They have committed no crime, but they cannot be granted access on the face value. So how do we look at the people who are farthest behind in our policies? We are not making it for us because somehow competitively we are better off. And this tells us best of the name that is popularly known in Liberia, the zogoes,” he says.
“They are Liberians. And I would want to say … former Vice President [Joseph Nyumah Boakai], they are zogoes, not of their making; they are zogoes, not because of their fault, but the inaction on the part of the State,” Mr. Emelonye argues.
He questions why in making policies, the State forgets the zogoes, warning that “we” cannot expect a sustainable Liberia when a lot of people are left behind.
“It is a time bomb. It’s a time bomb in my country. Ambassador please allow me again to talk about Nigeria. Few years ago my country was bubbling with the same issue that is named zogoes in the northeast,” he says.
According to Mr. Emelonye, children at age two were sent into the streets to fend for themselves, indicating that “today, northeast is the epic cent of Boko Haram.”
The UN official urges Liberians to look at the zogoes, cautioning here that this is not in the interest of these less privileged folks, but in the interest of all Liberians to look after the zogoes.
“Otherwise and God forbid, they will get to the point where their nascent values will affect all of us and affect the peace in Liberia,” Mr. Emelonye warns further.
Additionally he urges the need to respect human rights because equality, accountability, good governance, empowerment and anti – corruption will not work without the respect for human rights which is a right that comes “to us because we are human,” and not because you are from a particular family or a taxpayer.
He urges the young diplomats to stand up and speak out against corruption, noting that there is a research that has shown that the UN produces more results in some countries where it makes very minimum contributions of two to five percent than the other countries that budget was appropriated for.
Earlier at the ceremony, Liberia’s former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai told the young diplomats that there are always things that are happening that can contribute to violence, lack of peace, and urges that leaders should take note of those early warnings of violence and conflict in the country.
“We’re talking about prevention, but that’s where it starts. When you see the wrong things happening and you don’t arrest them. Even the diplomats, they have problems. We’ve seen what our diplomats go through in other countries and sometimes they are tempted to lose your dignity that you are committed to,” he says.
Mr. Boakai notes that the responsibility is on the young diplomats and everyone to make sure that the avenue is created for peace, saying he wants to see a Liberia that will prosper and benefit the young generation.
The President of the University of Liberia Rev. Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson has instructed Prof. T. Debey Sayndee to recruit the young diplomat graduates who are from UL to have them on standby so that the Office of Students Affairs can enlist them for a wonderful journey of sustaining peace at the state run university.
“And since they are young ambassadors and young diplomats, their first assignment starts this week. After celebrating they are to show up to Professor Sekou Konneh who is right now negotiating a peace settlement [with] the Student Unification Party here at the University of Liberia,” Dr. Nelson says.
By Winston W. Parley